My Te’o Take? I Have No Take . . . YET, and that’s OK!

manti teo

“Is this real life?”

 

by Craig Salner, Horn Contributor

 

Did you ever notice how the name Manti Te’o sounds like a great meditation mantra? Like a word you repeat to yourself while relaxing your mind, taking deep breath after deep breath, until you feel a sense of total serenity? Ironically, Mr. Te’o himself has just given us the perfect opportunity to use his name for just that purpose. To take a few deep breaths, develop a lost artform last heard of centuries ago called PATIENCE, and let some facts play out before we decide what must have happened between a handful of people (some real, some not) that we never met.

 By now we all know the headline version of today’s top sports story: Notre Dame star senior linebacker Manti Te’o, Heisman runner-up and winner of multiple prestigious 2012 postseason awards, had a mythical friendship turned “romance” with Lennay Kekua, a purported Stanford graduate who lost her battle with leukemia last September on the same day Te’o lost his grandmother. Te’o played through the alleged grief over two lost loved ones, in the eyes of many inspiring Notre Dame to play beyond their talent to the brink of a national championship before Alabama . . . well . . . happened.

We now know Lennay Kekua was in fact a figment of some twisted soul’s (or souls’) imagination(s). Te’o has come out through a public statement and admitted that, despite prior interview statements claiming that he has met Kekua several times, in fact the two exclusively had an online long-distance relationship. It turns out there was no real relationship at all. Kekua was created from a series of internet photos and apparently a brilliant yet twisted writer and actor.

The lingering question is whether Te’o was complicit in a hoax upon the public or was this simply a cruel hoax committed upon Te’o?

I’m not here to give you my opinion. I’m here to tell you that I haven’t heard nearly enough facts to FORM an opinion. I also want to question whether anyone realizes the value in this exercise anymore?

Te'o carries his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, off the field

Te’o carries his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, off the field

The last couple of days, sports radio was blowing up over this story. Hosts on all stations carried on about their conclusions, had guests on carrying on about their conclusions, and had callers torching the phone lines lining up to give their conclusions.

“He HAD to have been in on it or he’s the dumbest guy walking the Earth!!!”

“Just listening to this guy and how sincere he came off, there is NO way he was in on it!!”

“This guy is just as despicable as Lance Armstrong!!”

Sometimes sports stories come together in a beautiful confluence where salient points make themselves. In the past couple of weeks, between baseball’s failure to elect anyone to its Hall of Fame this year and Lance Armstrong’s pending gut-spilling to Oprah (leaving millions of Americans scrambling to figure out where Oprah’s network is on their TV dial), performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) returned to the forefront. Several athletes caught cheating and their defending onlookers have noted that once PEDs began permeating their respective sports, athletes needed to resort to PEDs to remain competitive with other users. As a society, most of us (including me) have summarily rejected this defense, and I believe rightly so. These cheating athletes sprung for the escalating dollars available, the fame, the sex, the attention in general.

But when we turn our attention on our national media, are they not guilty of hypocrisy here?

How often is the media, whether in sports or general news, guilty of misstating facts for the sake of breaking the story first? Does anyone remember how the Shady Hook Elementary shooter was misidentified for nearly a full day before it was learned that he was carrying his older brother’s identity at the time of the mass murder/suicide? Or what about when CNN misreported the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare for the sake of haste? The media makes countless errors in reporting, justifying their lapses by pointing to the competition and their need to rush out news in order to survive. Sound familiar?

This Te’o story is no different. The kid has issued a boilerplate statement without facing any questions from the public. Facts still are being uncovered. Yet, radio hosts will not hesitate to use this story and the premature opinions arising from it to fill their 3 or 4 hour blocks. Trashy crap like ESPNs “First Take” will give us Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless pontificating on this as if they have had Thanksgiving dinner with the Te’o’s for 10 years. ESPN.com already is running a story from an “anonymous” Notre Dame teammate who claims that Te’o embraced the notoriety from the girlfriend angle, as if that is indicative of anything.

"Man, I hope they don't start looking into my grandma..."

“Man, I hope they don’t start looking into my grandma…”

Do I believe that purely online relationships exist? Yes. Do I believe there are losers out there who spend their time trying to just flat out f*** with people? Yes. Do I believe a 22 year old football player could possibly fall for such a prank? Yes.

However, do I also believe that a 22 year old football player could be too immature to know a sophisticated prank is in poor taste? Yes. Do I think that sometimes a simple mistake spirals into a serious of larger mistakes in order to cover up the original mistake? Yes. Do I think there are 22 year old football players camouflaging severe psychological illness? Yes.

Let’s say “Manti Te’o” or find our own mantra and take a few deep breaths. Let’s be better than our peers for once and not assume we have to have an opinion on something before we know 50% of the facts.

There is no greater form of idiocy than speaking about that which you do not know, and there is sometimes no more courageous a form of intelligence than to say “I don’t know.”